A Prague Street Scene in the 1930s

Given that it is the 1930s, and that we are in a faraway country containing people of whom we know nothing, it would be easy to jump to conclusions about this photo:

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And are those mounted policemen, or troops?

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Still, at least the crowd is putting a brave face on whatever’s going on:

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Indeed, there are those who look positively cheerful about it all. You’ve got to laugh, or…

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But the mood these people are in is catching, even seventy (?) years on:

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I don’t think it’s them anymore, do you? So who is this all about? Ah, here comes somebody:

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And behind them…

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The bashful, self-conscious face of a footballer out of his comfort zone changes little over the ages..

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That’s better. And no need for a double-decker for these sophisticated Central Europeans:

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You’ve guessed it before me – it’s the Czechoslovakian national team, returning in triumph after their narrow 2-1 extra-time defeat to Italy in the 1934 World Cup. The photographer is Josef Jindrich Sechtl, the photojournalism pioneer.

There’s something of the J.H. Lartigues about this sequence, which you can see and admire in full here. But some of his work has a different and more poignant air, as in this lovely autochrome of the ill-fated and luckless President of Czechoslovakia, Eduard Benes, seen with his wife:

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1934 was one of the dodgy finals… the referee has earned his own Wikipedia entry, which you can find here. Nevertheless, the Czechs led until the last ten minutes.

UPDATE: FTv in the comments has spotted that our “smiling man” in two of these pictures is in fact Ferenc Furista, one of the most famous comedians of his day.

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2 responses to “A Prague Street Scene in the 1930s

  1. The funny smiling man on pictures no. 4 and 5 is actually Ferenc Futurista, one of the most popular Czech comedians of the time, whose face was then perhaps everyone in the country familiar with.

  2. There’s always something quite wistful I think about looking at photographs or film of central Europe in the 1930s, knowing what’s about to happen. It’s even more so with footage of Warsaw in that period, when you know that it will be destroyed utterly within a few years.

    Very good quality photographs actually – you only realise how tragic the poor quality of printing and storage of old photographs when you see specimens from the 1900s wich look as good as new. Like watching that Mitchell and Kenyon footage after years of assuming all old films were grainy, jumpy, Chaplinesque pieces.